Relatively little is known about the clinical importance of symptoms not presented to healthcare services. Using data from a community survey we examined the health status among those with chronic pain who reported using or not using healthcare services. Individuals with chronic pain who had used healthcare services in the previous year had poorer health than symptomatic responders who had not used services, irrespective of the severity of chronic pain. The findings suggest that there is little point in trying to detect and treat individuals not currently presenting to healthcare services with their pain.
health services; health services research; health status indicators; pain; signs and symptoms
Symptom characteristics are strong drivers of care seeking. Despite this, incongruous consultation behaviour occurs and has implications for both individuals and health-care services. The aim of this study was to determine how frequently incongruous consultation behaviour occurs, to examine whether it is more common for certain types of symptoms and to identify the factors associated with being an incongruous consulter.
An age and sex stratified random sample of 8,000 adults was drawn from twenty UK general practices. A postal questionnaire was used to collect detailed information on the presence and characteristics of 25 physical and psychological symptoms, actions taken to manage the symptoms, general health, attitudes to symptom management and demographic/socio-economic details. Two types of incongruous consultation behaviour were examined: i) consultation with a GP for symptoms self-rated as low impact and ii) no consultation with a GP for symptoms self-rated as high impact.
A fifth of all symptoms experienced resulted in consultation behaviour which was incongruous based on respondents' own rating of the symptoms' impact. Low impact consultations were not common, although symptoms indicative of a potentially serious condition resulted in a higher proportion of low impact consultations. High impact non-consultations were more common, although there was no clear pattern in the type of associated symptoms. Just under half of those experiencing symptoms in the previous two weeks were categorised as an incongruous consulter (low impact consulter: 8.3%, high impact non-consulter: 37.1%). Employment status, having a chronic condition, poor health, and feeling that reassurance or advice from a health professional is important were associated with being a low impact consulter. Younger age, employment status, being an ex-smoker, poor health and feeling that not wasting the GPs time is important were associated with being a high impact non-consulter.
This is one of the first studies to examine incongruous consultation behaviour for a range of symptoms. High impact non-consultations were common and may have important health implications, particularly for symptoms indicative of serious disease. More research is now needed to examine incongruous consultation behaviour and its impact on both the public's health and health service use.
Signs & symptoms; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
The symptom iceberg describes the phenomenon that most symptoms are managed in the community without people seeking professional health care. The size of the iceberg for many symptoms is unknown, as is their association with personal characteristics, including history of a chronic disease.
To ascertain the size of the symptom iceberg in the UK.
Design of study
A UK-wide community-based postal survey.
Urban and rural communities across the UK.
A postal survey was sent to an age- and sex-stratified random sample of 2474 adults, aged 18–60 years, drawn from 20 practices around the UK. Questions were aimed at investigating adults' experiences of 25 different symptoms in the previous 2 weeks.
The number of symptoms experienced by one individual in the previous 2 weeks ranged from 0 to 22 (mean 3.66). Of the symptoms examined, the three most common were: feeling tired/run down; headaches; and joint pain. Univariate analysis found symptom prevalence to be significantly associated with a wide range of participant characteristics. However, after adjustment, many of these associations no longer remained significant for a number of the symptoms. Presence of a chronic condition, age, and employment status were the three factors most commonly associated with the 2-week prevalence of symptoms. Reported symptom characteristics (severity, duration, interference, and time off work) varied little by sex or age.
Symptoms in the UK community are common. Symptom prevalence was associated with a number of participant characteristics, although the extent of this association was less than has been reported in previous research. This study provides an important current baseline prevalence of 25 symptoms in the community for those who do, and do not, have a chronic condition.
community-based; epidemiology; prevalence; signs and symptoms; symptom iceberg
Although many individuals have multiple lifestyle risk factors, few studies have investigated the impact of lifestyle risk factor combinations among women.
To investigate the relationship between individual and combinations of lifestyle risk factors in middle-aged women with subsequent mortality, and to estimate the associated population attributable risks.
Design of study
Prospective cohort study.
Royal College of General Practitioners' (RCGP) Oral Contraception Study, UK.
In 1994–1995, women remaining under follow-up in the RCGP Oral Contraception Study were sent a lifestyle survey, from which modifiable risk factors were identified: pack-years smoked, physical inactivity, never drinking versus consuming at least 7 units of alcohol weekly, and being underweight, overweight, or obese. The cohort was followed to December 2006 or death. Population attributable risks were calculated.
Of 10 059 women studied, 896 died. Pack-years smoked (11–20 years: adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.46 to 2.27; >20 years: adjusted HR = 2.34, 95% CI = 2.00 to 2.74); never drinking alcohol (adjusted HR = 1.66, 95% CI = 1.34 to 2.05); being underweight (adjusted = HR 1.66, 95% CI = 1.03 to 2.68); and physical inactivity (<15 hours/week: adjusted HR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.46 to 2.04) were significantly associated with mortality compared with their respective reference group. Women with multiple lifestyle risk factors had higher mortality risks than those reporting one factor. The population attributable risk of the combination of smoking, physical inactivity, body mass index outside normal range, and alcohol (never drinking or excess intake) was 59% (95% CI = 31% to 78%).
Assuming a causal relationship between lifestyle and mortality, avoidance of four lifestyle risk factors would have prevented 60% of the deaths. The importance of avoiding smoking and undertaking physical inactivity during midlife should continue to be emphasised.
epidemiology; follow-up studies; lifestyle; mortality; women
Recent changes in UK primary care have increased the range of services and healthcare professionals available for advice. Furthermore, the UK government has promoted greater use of both self-care and the wider primary care team for managing symptoms indicative of self-limiting illness. We do not know how the public has been responding to these strategies. The aim of this study was to describe the current use of different management strategies in the UK for a range of symptoms and identify the demographic, socio-economic and symptom characteristics associated with these different approaches.
An age and sex stratified random sample of 8,000 adults (aged 18-60), drawn from twenty general practices across the UK, were sent a postal questionnaire. The questionnaire collected detailed information on 25 physical and psychological symptoms ranging from those usually indicative of minor illness to those which could be indicative of serious conditions. Information on symptom characteristics, actions taken to manage the symptoms and demographic/socio-economic details were also collected.
Just under half of all symptoms reported resulted in respondents doing nothing at all. Lay-care was used for 35% of symptoms and primary care health professionals were consulted for 12% of symptoms. OTC medicine use was the most common lay-care strategy (used for 25% of all symptom episodes). The GP was the most common health professional consulted (consulted for 8% of all symptom episodes) while use of other primary care health professionals was very small (each consulted for less than 2% of symptom episodes). The actions taken for individual symptoms varied substantially although some broad patterns emerged. Symptom characteristics (in particular severity, duration and interference with daily life) were more commonly associated with actions taken than demographic or socio-economic characteristics.
While the use of lay-care was widespread, use of the primary care team other than the GP was low. Further research is needed to examine the public's knowledge and opinions of different primary care services to investigate why certain services are not being used to inform the future development of primary care services in the UK.
Signs and symptoms; Symptom iceberg; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
Objective To see if the mortality risk among women who have used oral contraceptives differs from that of never users.
Design Prospective cohort study started in 1968 with mortality data supplied by participating general practitioners, National Health Service central registries, or both.
Setting 1400 general practices throughout the United Kingdom.
Participants 46 112 women observed for up to 39 years, resulting in 378 006 woman years of observation among never users of oral contraception and 819 175 among ever users.
Main outcome measures Directly standardised adjusted relative risks between never and ever users for all cause and cause specific mortality.
Results 1747 deaths occurred in never users of oral contraception and 2864 in ever users. Compared with never users, ever users of oral contraception had a significantly lower rate of death from any cause (adjusted relative risk 0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.82 to 0.93). They also had significantly lower rates of death from all cancers; large bowel/rectum, uterine body, and ovarian cancer; main gynaecological cancers combined; all circulatory disease; ischaemic heart disease; and all other diseases. They had higher rates of violent deaths. No association between overall mortality and duration of oral contraceptive use was observed, although some disease specific relations were apparent. An increased relative risk of death from any cause between ever users and never users was observed in women aged under 45 years who had stopped using oral contraceptives 5-9 years previously but not in those with more distant use. The estimated absolute reduction in all cause mortality among ever users of oral contraception was 52 per 100 000 woman years.
Conclusion Oral contraception was not associated with an increased long term risk of death in this large UK cohort; indeed, a net benefit was apparent. The balance of risks and benefits, however, may vary globally, depending on patterns of oral contraception usage and background risk of disease.
Helminths have profound effects on the immune response, allowing long-term
survival of parasites with minimal damage to the host. Some of these effects
"spill-over", altering responses to
non-helminth antigens or allergens. It is suggested that this may lead to
impaired responses to immunizations and infections, while conferring
benefits against inflammatory responses in allergic and autoimmune disease.
These effects might develop in utero, through exposure to maternal helminth
infections, or through direct exposure in later life.
To determine the effects of helminths and their treatment in pregnancy and in
young children on immunological and disease outcomes in childhood.
The trial has three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
interventions at two times, in two people: a pregnant woman and her child.
Pregnant women are randomized to albendazole or placebo and praziquantel or
placebo. At age 15 months their children are randomized to three-monthly
albendazole or placebo, to continue to age five years. The proposed
designation for this sequence of interventions is a 2 X 2(x2) factorial
Children are immunized with BCG and against polio, Diphtheria, tetanus,
Pertussis, Haemophilus, hepatitis B and measles. Primary immunological
outcomes are responses to BCG antigens and tetanus toxoid in whole blood
cytokine assays and antibody assays at one, three and five years of age.
Primary disease outcomes are incidence of malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea,
tuberculosis, measles, vertical HIV transmission, and atopic disease
episodes, measured at clinic visits and twice-monthly home visits. Effects
on anaemia, growth and intellectual development are also assessed.
This trial, with a novel design comprising related interventions in pregnant
women and their offspring, is the first to examine effects of helminths and
their treatment in pregnancy and early childhood on immunological,
infectious disease and allergic disease outcomes. The results will enhance
understanding of both detrimental and beneficial effects of helminth
infection and inform policy. Clinical Trials 2007; 4: 42–57.
To describe uptake of HIV and syphilis testing in a prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission programme in Uganda.
Analysis of data from routine HIV and syphilis testing at Entebbe Hospital antenatal services.
A total of 20 738 women attended antenatal services. Exactly 62.8% of women, but only 1.8% of their male partners, accepted testing for HIV; 82.2% of women, but only 1.1% of their male partners accepted syphilis testing. Partners of women with positive HIV results were more likely to come for subsequent testing. Of 200 couples whose partners accepted HIV-testing within 30 days of one another, 19 (9.5%) were HIV-discordant, representing 65.5% of couples with at least one partner HIV-positive. HIV prevalence was 12.6% for women and 10.8% for men; syphilis prevalence was 4.0% for women and 6.2% for men.
Uptake of HIV and syphilis testing was fairly good among pregnant women attending antenatal clinics at Entebbe Hospital, but very low among their male partners. The level of HIV-discordant couples was high. These clinics should be made more couples-friendly to identify both HIV-positive men for treatment and discordant couples for HIV prevention.
HIV; PMTCT; Uganda; pregnant; couple; syphilis
Disparities in perinatal health care occur worldwide. If the UN Millennium Development Goals in maternal and child health are to be met, this needs to be addressed. This study was conducted to facilitate our understanding of the changing use of maternity care services in a semi-urban community in Entebbe Uganda and to examine the range of antenatal and delivery services received in health care facilities and at home.
We conducted a retrospective community survey among women using structured questionnaires to describe the use of antenatal services and delivery care.
In total 413 women reported on their most recent pregnancy. Antenatal care attendance was high with 96% attending once, and 69% the recommended four times. Blood pressure monitoring (95%) and tetanus vaccination (91%) were the services most frequently reported and HIV testing (47%), haematinics (58%) and presumptive treatment for malaria (66%) least frequently. Hospital clinics significantly outperformed public clinics in the quality of antenatal service. A significant improvement in the reported quality of antenatal services received was observed by year (p < 0.001). Improvement in the range and consistency of services at Entebbe Hospital over time was associated with an increase in the numbers who sought care there (p = 0.038). Although 63% delivered their newborn at a local hospital, 11% still delivered at home with no skilled assistance and just under half of these women reported financial/transportation difficulties as the primary reason. Less educated, poorer mothers were more likely to have unskilled/no assistance. Simple newborn care practices were commonly neglected. Only 35% of newborns were breastfed within the first hour and delayed wrapping of newborn infants occurred after 27% of deliveries.
Although antenatal services were well utilised, the quality of services varied. Women were able and willing to travel to a facility providing a good service. Access to essential skilled birth attendants remains difficult especially for less educated, poorer women, commonly mediated by financial and transport difficulties and several simple post delivery practices were commonly neglected. These factors need to be addressed to ensure that high quality care reaches the most vulnerable women and infants.
Objective To examine the absolute risks or benefits on cancer associated with oral contraception, using incident data.
Design Inception cohort study.
Setting Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Participants Directly standardised data from the Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Main outcome measures Adjusted relative risks between never and ever users of oral contraceptives for different types of cancer, main gynaecological cancers combined, and any cancer. Standardisation variables were age, smoking, parity, social class, and (for the general practitioner observation dataset) hormone replacement therapy. Subgroup analyses examined whether the relative risks changed with user characteristics, duration of oral contraception usage, and time since last use of oral contraception.
Results The main dataset contained about 339 000 woman years of observation for never users and 744 000 woman years for ever users. Compared with never users ever users had statistically significant lower rates of cancers of the large bowel or rectum, uterine body, and ovaries, tumours of unknown site, and other malignancies; main gynaecological cancers combined; and any cancer. The relative risk for any cancer in the smaller general practitioner observation dataset was not significantly reduced. Statistically significant trends of increasing risk of cervical and central nervous system or pituitary cancer, and decreasing risk of uterine body and ovarian malignancies, were seen with increasing duration of oral contraceptive use. Reduced relative risk estimates were observed for ovarian and uterine body cancer many years after stopping oral contraception, although some were not statistically significant. The estimated absolute rate reduction of any cancer among ever users was 45 or 10 per 100 000 woman years, depending on whether the main or general practitioner observation dataset was used.
Conclusion In this UK cohort, oral contraception was not associated with an overall increased risk of cancer; indeed it may even produce a net public health gain. The balance of cancer risks and benefits, however, may vary internationally, depending on patterns of oral contraception usage and the incidence of different cancers.
Associations between symptom experience and mortality have rarely been investigated. One study has suggested that the number of symptoms people experience may be an important predictor of mortality. This novel and potentially important finding may have important implications but needs to be tested in other cohorts.
858 people aged around 58 years were interviewed by nurses in 1990/1 as part of the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. They were asked about the presence of symptoms in the last month from a checklist of 33 symptoms. Measures of morbidity included symptom type (respiratory, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, mental health, neurological, systemic) and symptom summary measures looking at the number and impact of symptoms (total number; number participants tended to have; number participants did not tend to have; number which restricted usual activities; number which led to GP consultation). Hazard ratios for thirteen-year all-cause mortality were calculated for symptom types, symptom summary measures, and self-assessed health with and without adjustment.
On unadjusted analysis, and after adjusting for gender, socio-economic status and smoking, mortality was elevated in individuals reporting respiratory, systemic and mental health symptoms. After additional adjustment for chronic conditions and self-assessed health, only the association between mental health symptoms and mortality remained significant. On unadjusted analysis, and after adjusting for gender, socio-economic status and smoking, mortality was elevated in individuals with many (≥ 6) symptoms in four of the symptom summary measures examined. These relationships were no longer significant after additional adjustment for chronic conditions and self-assessed health. A clear trend of increasing mortality as self-assessed health became poorer was observed. This pattern remained statistically significant after adjustment for gender, socio-economic status, smoking, chronic conditions and the total number of symptoms experienced.
Symptoms often thought of as minor may have important consequences later in life especially for those reporting mental health-related symptoms or those experiencing many symptoms. In this study however, self-assessed health appeared to be a better predictor of mortality than the type or number of symptoms experienced, even when the tendency to have and impact of the symptoms were taken into account.
Few qualitative studies of headache have been conducted and as a result we have little in-depth understanding of the experiences and perceptions of people with headache. The aim of this paper was to explore the perceptions and experiences of individuals with headache and their experiences of associated healthcare and treatment.
A qualitative study of individuals with headache, sampled from a population-based study of chronic pain was conducted in the North-East of Scotland, UK. Seventeen semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults aged 65 or less. Interviews were analysed using the Framework approach utilising thematic analysis.
Almost every participant reported that they were unable to function fully as a result of the nature and unpredictability of their headaches and this had caused disruption to their work, family life and social activities. Many also reported a negative impact on mood including feeling depressed, aggressive or embarrassed. Most participants had formed their own ideas about different aspects of their headache and several had searched for, or were seeking, increased understanding of their headache from a variety of sources. Many participants reported that their headaches caused them constant worry and anguish, and they were concerned that there was a serious underlying cause. A variety of methods were being used to manage headaches including conventional medication, complementary therapies and self-developed management techniques. Problems associated with all of these management strategies emerged.
Headache has wide-ranging adverse effects on individuals and is often accompanied by considerable worry. The development of new interventions or educational strategies aimed at reducing the burden of the disorder and associated anxiety are needed.
Maternal schistosomiasis and filariasis have been shown to influence infant responses to neonatal bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) immunisation but the effects of maternal hookworm, and of de-worming in pregnancy, are unknown.
In Entebbe, Uganda, we conducted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a single dose of 400 mg of albendazole in the second trimester of pregnancy. Neonates received BCG. Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and interleukin (IL)-5 responses to a mycobacterial antigen (crude culture filtrate proteins (CFP) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis) were measured in a whole blood assay. We analysed results for binary variables using χ2 tests and logistic regression. We analysed continuous variables using Wilcoxon's tests.
Maternal hookworm was associated with reduced maternal IFN-γ responses to CFP (adjusted odds ratio for IFN-γ > median response: 0.14 (95% confidence interval 0.02–0.83, p = 0.021). Conversely, maternal hookworm was associated with subsequent increased IFN-γ responses in their one-year-old infants (adjusted OR 17.65 (1.20–258.66; p = 0.013)). Maternal albendazole tended to reduce these effects.
Untreated hookworm infection in pregnancy was associated with reduced maternal IFN-γ responses to mycobacterial antigens, but increased responses in their infants one year after BCG immunisation. The mechanisms of these effects, and their implications for protective immunity remain, to be determined.
Objectives To investigate the long term risk (mean > 20 years) of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in women who had or had not had a hysterectomy.
Design Nested cohort study.
Setting Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Participants 7410 women (3705 flagged at the NHS central registries for cancer and death who had a hysterectomy during the oral contraception study and 3705 who were flagged but did not have the operation).
Main outcome measures Mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Results 623 (8.4%) women had died by the end of follow-up (308 in the hysterectomy group and 315 in the non-hysterectomy group). Older women who had had a hysterectomy had a 6% reduced risk of death compared with women of a similar age who did not have the operation (adjusted hazard ratio 0.94, 95% confidence interval 0.75 to 1.18). Compared with young women who did not have a hysterectomy those who were younger at hysterectomy had an adjusted hazard ratio for all cause mortality of 0.82 (0.65 to 1.03). Hysterectomy was not associated with a significantly altered risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease or cancer regardless of age.
Conclusion Hysterectomy did not increase the risk of death in the medium to long term.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the clinical importance of disease that is not presented to healthcare services. AIM: To determine the 5-year mortality among those with angina symptoms, known or not known by their general practitioner (GP) to have ischaemic heart disease (IHD). DESIGN: A prospective cohort study. SETTING: The study was conducted in the United Kingdom as part of the Royal College of General Practitioners' Oral Contraception Study. METHOD: In 1994-1995 women (n = 11,797) still under GP observation were sent a questionnaire that inquired about their smoking habits, other lifestyle issues, general health, and selected symptoms (including chest pain, assessed using the Rose angina questionnaire). The main outcome measure was the chances (odds) of dying during the next 5 years, among those with and without exertional chest pain, Rose angina or Rose myocardial infarction (MI), stratified by documented history of IHD. RESULTS: Overall, the lifetime prevalence of any exertional chest pain was 10.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 9.5 to 10.8); grade I Rose angina was 6.1% (95% CI = 5.6 to 6.6); grade II Rose angina was 1.3% (95% CI = 1.1 to 1.6); and Rose MI was 4.4% (95% CI = 4.0 to 4.9). The prevalence of each condition tended to increase with age, social class, parity, body mass index, and documented history of IHD. The proportion of women documented as having IHD was 23% among those with any exertional chest pain, 21.7% for grade I Rose angina, 37.7% for grade II Rose angina, and 31.4% for Rose MI. Compared to women without Rose angina, significantly higher odds ratios for all-cause mortality were observed among women with grade I Rose angina and no documented history of IHD (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.05 to 2.79); those with grade II Rose angina and documented IHD (AOR = 3.94, 95% CI = 1.58 to 9.83); and women with grade II Rose angina and no documented history of IHD (AOR = 3.35, 95% CI = 1.47 to 7.62). CONCLUSIONS: Women with angina symptoms that have not been documented by their GP appear to have an increased risk of future mortality. Research is needed to determine the best way of identifying and managing these individuals.
Recent research suggested associations between pain and subsequent all-cause and cancer-specific mortality. This study examined death and cancer development within six years of reporting pain, among women in the Royal College of General Practitioners Oral Contraception Study. We found no associations between 'any' or 'chronic' pain and subsequent all-cause mortality or cancer. We found a higher risk of death from respiratory disease among women reporting pain (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.5), a higher mortality among women reporting chronic chest pain (AOR = 1.75), and a higher risk of subsequent cancer among women reporting head or abdomen pain. Given the high prevalence of pain symptoms, these findings may be important, and warrant further research.
BACKGROUND: There is no standard method of measuring change in chronic pain severity. Clinical trials commonly use serial assessment scales, completed at two points in time, to estimate change in pain severity, while clinicians usually ask patients to make a retrospective assessment of change. How the two methods compare is not known. AIM: To assess different methods of measuring change in chronic pain severity, by comparing changes in scores on a serial measure of chronic pain severity using the Chronic Pain Grade (CPG) questionnaire and responders' retrospective perception of change in pain severity. DESIGN OF STUDY: Postal self-completion questionnaires. SETTING: The Grampian region of Scotland. METHOD: Postal questionnaires were sent in March and September 1998 to a random sample of 535 adults with chronic pain, drawn from responders to a postal survey of the region conducted in 1996. RESULTS: Corrected response rates of 87.5% and 90.7% were obtained. Over a six-month period poor levels of agreement were found, with responders' retrospective perceptions mirroring recorded changes in 41.8% of individuals (kappa = 0.081). A low partial correlation coefficient between the two measures (-0.209) was also found. Over a two-year period there were again poor levels of agreement, with responders' retrospective perceptions mirronng recorded changes in 35.2% of individuals (kappa = 0.071). A low partial correlation coefficient (-0.401) was again found. CONCLUSION: There was poor agreement and low correlation between two commonly used methods for assessing change in pain severity over time. This finding has important implications for both service practitioners and researchers.
Allergy is commoner in developed than in developing countries. Chronic worm infections show inverse associations with allergy, and prenatal exposures may be critical to allergy risk.
To determine whether anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy increases the risk of allergy in infancy.
A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on treatment in pregnancy with albendazole versus placebo and praziquantel versus placebo was conducted in Uganda, with a 2 × 2 factorial design; 2507 women were enrolled; infants’ allergy events were recorded prospectively. The main outcome was doctor-diagnosed infantile eczema.
Worms were detected in 68% of women before treatment. Doctor-diagnosed infantile eczema incidence was 10.4/100 infant years. Maternal albendazole treatment was associated with a significantly increased risk of eczema [Cox HR (95% CI), p: 1.82 (1.26–2.64), 0.002]; this effect was slightly stronger among infants whose mothers had no albendazole-susceptible worms than among infants whose mothers had such worms, although this difference was not statistically significant. Praziquantel showed no effect overall but was associated with increased risk among infants of mothers with Schistosoma mansoni [2.65 (1.16–6.08), interaction p = 0.02]. In a sample of infants, skin prick test reactivity and allergen-specific IgE were both associated with doctor-diagnosed eczema, indicating atopic aetiology. Albendazole was also strongly associated with reported recurrent wheeze [1.58 (1.13–2.22), 0.008]; praziquantel showed no effect.
The detrimental effects of treatment suggest that exposure to maternal worm infections in utero may protect against eczema and wheeze in infancy. The results for albendazole are also consistent with a direct drug effect. Further studies are required to investigate mechanisms of these effects, possible benefits of worms or worm products in primary prevention of allergy, and the possibility that routine deworming during pregnancy may promote allergic disease in the offspring.
albendazole; praziquantel; worms; infantile eczema; pregnancy; clinical trial
BACKGROUND: Data on congenital anomalies from developing countries of the sub-Saharan region are scarce. However, it is important to have comprehensive and reliable data on the description and prevalence of congenital anomalies to allow surveillance and the implementation of appropriate public health strategies for prevention and management. In this study, we describe the profile of congenital anomalies seen in a birth cohort in Entebbe, Uganda. METHODS: Congenital anomalies were defined as any structural defect present at birth. Pregnant women were recruited to the cohort between 2003 and 2005. Defects present at birth were recorded by the midwife at delivery and by physicians at the routine six-week postnatal visit and at illness-related visits until 1 year of life. The anomalies were classified by organ system according to the 10th version of the World Health Organization International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). RESULTS: There were 180 infants with a congenital anomaly among 2365 births. The most commonly affected systems were the musculoskeletal (42.7 per 1000 births) and skin (16.1 per 1000 births). The prevalence of major anomalies was 20.3 per 1000 births; 1.7 per 1000 births for cardiac anomalies and 1.3 per 1000 births for neural system anomalies. Forty (22%) of the congenital anomalies were identified at birth, 131 (73%) at the 6-week postnatal visit, and nine (5%) at illness-related visits. CONCLUSION: Congenital anomalies are common in developing countries. Establishment of comprehensive databases for surveillance would be helpful for surveillance of effects of new exposures, for prevention, management, and health care planning. Birth Defects Research (Part A) 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
congenital anomalies; infants; epidemiology; Uganda; Africa
To assess the reliability of maternally recalled birthweight and size in Entebbe, Uganda.
The study population comprised 404 mothers, who were participants in the Entebbe Mother and Baby Study (EMaBS). Mothers were recruited to EMaBS during antenatal care, maternal characteristics were recorded during pregnancy, and birthweight was recorded at delivery. Four to seven years after delivery, mothers were asked to recall the child’s birthweight and size. Their responses were compared with the birthweight recorded in the EMaBS database.
Of 404 interviewed mothers, 303 (75%) were able to give an estimate of birthweight and for 265 of these EMaBS data on recorded birthweights were available. Women who were educated and whose children had low birth order were more likely to be able to give an estimate: 37 (14%) recalled the exact recorded birthweight; a further 52 (20%) were accurate to within 0.1 kg of the recorded weight. On average, mothers overestimated birthweight by 0.06 kg (95% CI: 0.00–0.13 kg, P = 0.04). Recalled and recorded birthweights showed moderate agreement with an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.64. Four hundered mothers gave an estimate of birth size: the sensitivity and specificity of recalled birth size for classifying low birthweight were 76% (95% CI: 50–93%) and 70% (95% CI: 65–75%), respectively.
Mothers’ recall of birthweight was not precise but in absence of other data, recall of birthweight and size may have some value in epidemiological studies in these settings.
birthweight; reliability; validity; uganda
To assess the associations between maternal HIV infection and growth outcomes of HIV-exposed but uninfected infants and to identify other predictors for poor growth among this population.
Within a trial of de-worming during pregnancy, the cohort of offspring was followed from birth. HIV status of the mothers and their children was investigated and growth data for children were obtained at age 1 year. Length-for-age, weight-for-age and weight-for-length Z-scores were calculated for each child; Z-scores <−2 were defined as stunting, underweight and wasting, respectively.
The study was conducted in Entebbe municipality and Katabi sub-county, Uganda.
The sample consisted of 1502 children aged 1 year: HIV-unexposed (n 1380) and HIV-exposed not infected (n 122).
Prevalence of stunting, underweight and wasting was 14·2 %, 8·0 % and 3·9 %, respectively. There was evidence for an association between maternal HIV infection and odds of being underweight (adjusted OR = 2·32; 95 % CI 1·32, 4·09; P = 0·006) but no evidence for an association with stunting or with wasting. Young maternal age, low maternal education, low birth weight, early weaning and experiencing a higher number of episodes of malaria during infancy were independent predictors for stunting and underweight. A higher number of living children in the family was associated with wasting.
Maternal HIV infection was associated with being underweight in HIV-exposed uninfected infants. The success of programmes for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission means that an increasing number of infants will be born to HIV-infected women without acquiring HIV. Therefore, viable nutritional interventions need to be identified for this population.
HIV exposure; Poor growth; Infancy; Uganda
Vaccine failure is an important concern in the tropics with many contributing elements. Among them, it has been suggested that exposure to natural infections might contribute to vaccine failure and recurrent disease outbreaks. We tested this hypothesis by examining the influence of co-infections on maternal and infant measles-specific IgG levels.
We conducted an observational analysis using samples and data that had been collected during a larger randomised controlled trial, the Entebbe Mother and Baby Study (ISRCTN32849447). For the present study, 711 pregnant women and their offspring were considered. Helminth infections including hookworm, Schistosoma mansoni and Mansonella perstans, along with HIV, malaria, and other potential confounding factors were determined in mothers during pregnancy and in their infants at age one year. Infants received their measles immunisation at age nine months. Levels of total IgG against measles were measured in mothers during pregnancy and at delivery, as well as in cord blood and from infants at age one year.
Among the 711 pregnant women studied, 66% had at least one helminth infection at enrolment, 41% had hookworm, 20% M. perstans and 19% S. mansoni. Asymptomatic malaria and HIV prevalence was 8% and 10% respectively. At enrolment, 96% of the women had measles-specific IgG levels considered protective (median 4274 mIU/ml (IQR 1784, 7767)). IgG levels in cord blood were positively correlated to maternal measles-specific IgG levels at delivery (r = 0.81, p < 0.0001). Among the infants at one year of age, median measles-specific IgG levels were markedly lower than in maternal and cord blood (median 370 mIU/ml (IQR 198, 656) p < 0.0001). In addition, only 75% of the infants had measles-specific IgG levels considered to be protective. In a multivariate regression analysis, factors associated with reduced measles-specific antibody levels in infancy were maternal malaria infection, infant malaria parasitaemia, infant HIV and infant wasting. There was no association with maternal helminth infection.
Malaria and HIV infection in mothers during pregnancy, and in their infants, along with infant malnutrition, may result in reduction of the antibody response to measles immunisation in infancy. This re-emphasises the importance of malaria and HIV control, and support for infant nutrition, as these interventions may have benefits for vaccine efficacy in tropical settings.
Infections; Co-infections; Measles; Helminth; Malaria; HIV; Maternal; Infants; Pregnancy; Immunisation
Immune modulation by parasites may influence susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. We examined the association between current parasite infections, HIV and syphilis (measured in blood or stool samples using standard methods) and antibodies against Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV), measured by ELISA, in 1915 stored plasma samples from pregnant women in Entebbe, Uganda.
Seroprevalence of KSHV was higher in women with malaria parasitaemia (73% vs 60% p = 0.01), hookworm (67% vs 56% p = 0.001) and Mansonella perstans (69% vs 59% p = 0.05); seroprevalence increased with increasing intensity of hookworm infection (p < 0.001[trend]). No associations were found for HIV, five other parasites or active syphilis. These effects were not explained by socioeconomic status or education.
Specific parasite infections are associated with presence of antibodies against KSHV, perhaps mediated via their effect on immune function.
Offspring of women with schistosomiasis may exhibit immune responsiveness to schistosomes due to in utero sensitisation or trans-placental transfer of antibodies. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy boosts maternal immune responses to schistosome antigens and reduces worm burden. Effects of praziquantel treatment during pregnancy on responses among offspring are unknown.
In a trial of anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy in Uganda (ISRCTN32849447; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN32849447/elliott), offspring of women with Schistosoma mansoni were examined for cytokine and antibody responses to schistosome worm (SWA) and egg (SEA) antigen, in cord blood and at age one year. Relationships to maternal responses and pre-treatment infection intensities were examined, and responses were compared between the offspring of women who did, or did not receive praziquantel treatment during pregnancy.
Of 388 S. mansoni-infected women studied, samples were obtained at age one year from 215 of their infants. Stool examination for S. mansoni eggs was negative for all infants. Cord and infant samples were characterised by very low cytokine production in response to schistosome antigens with the exception of cord IL-10 responses, which were substantial. Cord and infant cytokine responses showed no association with maternal responses. As expected, cord blood levels of immunoglobulin (Ig) G to SWA and SEA were high and correlated with maternal antibodies. However, by age one year IgG levels had waned and were hardly detectable. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy showed no effect on cytokine responses or antibodies levels to SWA or SEA either in cord blood or at age one year, except for IgG1 to SWA, which was elevated in infants of treated mothers, reflecting maternal levels. There was some evidence that maternal infection intensity was positively associated with cord blood IL-5 and IL-13 responses to SWA, and IL-5 responses to SEA, and that this association was modified by treatment with praziquantel.
Despite strong effects on maternal infection intensity and maternal immune responses, praziquantel treatment of infected women during pregnancy had no effect on anti-schistosome immune responses among offspring by age one year. Whether the treatment will impact upon the offspring's responses on exposure to primary schistosome infection remains to be elucidated.